Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sri Lanka tourism revenue at record; Oct visits up 39 pct

COLOMBO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's tourism revenue hit a record high in the first ten months of 2010, with October arrivals jumping 39 percent as the country continues to enjoy a post-war surge, tourism board data showed on Wednesday. Earnings from tourism have jumped 61.8 percent in the first 10 months of this year to a record $437.9 million, the central bank's latest data shows. The previous record of $416.8 million was set in 2004 when a peace accord between the government and separatist Tamil Tigers was in place.

Arrivals have risen every month since the government defeated the Tigers in May 2009. The hotel and travel index .CSEHT on the Colombo Stock Exchange has almost tripled since then, outpacing the overall
stock index's .CSE near-doubling. Tourism is one of the main foreign exchange earners of Sri Lanka's $42 billion economy along with remittances, garments and tea.

Tourism revenue was $326 million in 2009, according to the revised numbers given by the tourism board.

Following table shows tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka:      

* The government expects arrivals to hit a record high of 600,000 this year, exceeding a previous peak of 566,202 in 2004.

* In the first 10 months, arrivals from North America surged 66.5 percent year-on-year.

* Visitors from Western Europe, the island nation's largest market, have risen 49.3 percent year-on-year.

* Arrivals from the Middle East rose 58.0 percent.

* Tourist arrivals from East Asia, South Asia, and Australasia have risen over 33 percent.

* Sri Lanka has imposed a tax of $20 per room night on five-star hotels if they fail to charge a minimum rate of $125.

* Sri Lanka is targeting 2.5 million arrivals and $2 billion in earnings by 2016.

($1=111.325 Sri Lankan rupee)
 (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Bryson Hull)

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